John Muir Festival, Concord, California

March 18 - April 1, 2000

News Release
February 18, 2000
CONTACT: Sally Hogarty (925) 376-6457



CONCORD: The spirit of environmentalist John Muir comes alive once again as the Willows Theatre Company and the John Muir Memorial Association present an exciting two-week festival celebrating the life and work of this extraordinary man.

Scheduled for March 18 - April 1, 2000 at the Willows Theatre, the festival features a wide variety of activities. From music of the period, to round table discussions, to Lee Stetson and Doug Brennan's West Coast premier of The Tramp and the Roughrider, to a new musical based on the life of John Muir, this unique festival offers something for everyone.

March 18 - Rousing stories and spirited songs honoring Muir and Mother Nature kick off the festival on March 18 as artists from the recently released John Muir Tribute CD perform. King's Canyon Naturalist, Frank Helling, portrays John Muir for the evening, as Ross Hanna, one of John Muir's grandsons, will be speaking about his grandfather. Bay Area guitarist, Peter Lamson's gutsy guitar playing paves the way for Sierra Nevada entertainer, Dan'l whose original songs and skilled guitar playing take us directly into the heart of John Muir's world. The CD will be on sale with proceeds benefiting the John Muir Memorial Association.

On March 19, Lee Stetson portrays Muir in a riveting one-man show as the famous naturalist awaits President Wilson's decision on preserving the Hetch Hetchy Valley.

Then on March 20, the first of eight workshop performances of a new musical based on the life of John Muir takes place. Offering a unique opportunity for audiences to be involved in the creative process, Mountain Days, the John Muir Musical will be presented on alternating days. Rewrites and fine-tuning reflecting the reaction and feedback of the audience will take place on days the musical is not performed. Presented by the Willows Theatre and the Concord Pavilion Associates, the workshop performance of Mountain Days features former California Shakespeare Festival artistic director Joe Vincent as Muir and well-known local actress Livia Genise as his devoted wife Louie Strenzel.

Mary Bracken Phillips, who wrote the Irish musical Brimstone produced by the Willows last season, penned the book and lyrics for the Muir extravaganza, and Craig Bohmler composed the music. Bohmler previously composed the music for Gunmetal Blues and Enter the Guardsman. Mountain Days is directed by Willows' artistic director Rich Elliott and produced by Gloria Trombley. A fully staged production with a cast of over 100 is planned for October 12-15, 2000 at the Concord Pavilion.

Filled with humor, Mountain Days begins in Scotland when Muir was only 3 years-old and follows the adventurous young man, who never met a tree he didn't like, across the United States. As Muir develops from an inventor into a crusader determined to preserve the natural beauty of the land for future generations, historical luminaries such as Teddy Roosevelt and William Keith appear. Muir's successful drive to have Yosemite declared a National Park, his unsuccessful attempts to keep the beautiful Hetch Hetchy Valley from becoming a "water tank" for San Francisco as well as the tender love story between Muir and his devoted wife Louie Strenzil unfolds in this very human story.

Events alternating with the workshop performance of Mountain Days include: nationally known storyteller/actor Garth Gilchrist as he weaves adventure, history and ecology into a seamless, captivating story for young and old alike; Jay Ericson's magnificent photographs of the John Muir Trail combined with entertaining and educational commentary; a national premiere of a new play with Lee Stetson as Muir and Doug Brennan as Teddy Roosevelt complete the festivals' purpose of taking Muir out of the library and into the minds of the people today.

A round table forum in which Muir family members join noted scholars in an open discussion about the great naturalist invites audience participation. Come and join the discussion. Find out why no one liked John Muir to be the cook on any outing.

The Panel consists of:
Ranger David Blackburn - Chief of Interpretation at the John Muir National Historic Site
Maymie Kimes - Noted Muir scholar, author, mountain climber
Cherry Good - author of the just released book On the Trail of John Muir
Ross Hanna - Muir's grandson
Harold Wood - Webmaster of the Sierra Club's John Muir Exhibit website

Tickets for the festival range from $5 to $15 and may be reserved by calling the Willows Theatre at (925) 798-1300.


John Muir Festival Has Something For Everyone

WHO: The Willows Theatre, the John Muir Memorial Association, and the Concord Pavilion Associates

WHAT: The John Muir Festival

WHEN: March 18 - April 1, 2000

3/18 8:00 p.m. Muir in Song & Story $10
3/19 3:00 p.m. Stetson as John Muir $10
3/20, 22, 28, 30 7:30 p.m. Mountain Days $10
3/21, 23 1:00 p.m. Garth Gilchrist: Adventures with John Muir $5
3/23 7:30 p.m. Jay Ericson: Muir Trial slides/lecture $5
3/24, 4/1 8:00 p.m. Mountain Days $10
3/25 2:00 p.m. Jay Ericson: Muir Trail slides/lecture $5
3/25 8:00 p.m. Stetson/Brennan: Muir and Roosevelt $15
3/26 3:00 p.m. Mountain Days $10
3/31 8:00 p.m. Round Table Forum $5
4/1 2:00 p.m. Mountain Days $10


The Willows Theatre
Willows Shopping Center
975 Diamond Blvd.
Concord, CA


(925) 798-1300

Plan now for October: Mountain Days: The John Muir Musical: Concord Pavilion

October 12 and 13, 10:00 a.m. - Grades 3, 4, and 5
October 12 - 7:30 p.m. - High School

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